Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A London Life

The Chiswick Empire

If life is a complex, high byte and multilayered File, this week mine feels like it went to auto-compress with too much Content wedged into Too Few Days - the Youngest Daughter's Birthday, earlier dolly shopping for same (!), more work mallarkey and then yesterday the unwanted news of the death of an old friend. No, it's OK - an OLD friend (aged 86) and mercifully quickly, suddenly, too, but still sad (very) and I am trawling down to Devon for the funeral tomorrow and back in the same day because I have stuff in London on Friday and can't stay over with the Aged Ps.

You would have loved Nellie. She was born, grew up and raised a family in a terraced house in Chiswick, West London - back before it was all Sofa Workshops and Starbucks around there. Her husband Charlie was a clippie on the buses and she was a good Mum and a party girl - loved the dancing and the good times and a whisky with water (never ice) and had the best laugh and the filthiest sense of humour you ever heard. She knew all the pubs West and South West of town I still go to and many more besides that they've pulled down and paved over since. She liked her bingo.

I'd never have met her if she hadn't retired with Charlie to Devon, and then too early he died, she was on her own - but her son moved down too and then there was family, and lots of friends at the Community Centre, including Mr & Mrs H (senior). She would proudly and resolutely stand her own rounds, laugh her wonderful laugh, tell tall tales of 40s Chiswick in her 40s Chiswick voice, squeeze my twentysomething year old self tight round the arm on the way back home at chucking out time and, definitely, definitely, definitely never Act Her Age. An example, I'm sure you will agree, to us all.

I shall miss her a lot.

I wondered if Noel Coward might be a bit posh for Nellie - but you know, all that was fake, he was a humble boy really; and I think she would appreciate the sentiments of this...

Gawd bless you darlin'.

Noel Coward - 'London Pride' (1941)


  1. She's part of that generation we'll never see again - the sort that stoically soldiered on with swift shrift for grumbles and chips on shoulders. I always dig out 'Love Lived Here' and 'Debris' by The Faces at times like these.

  2. That's a very vivid picture you paint - I think we all know someone like this. Sadly they are a dying breed.

  3. Hear hear. Nicely put.
    Dancing, laughter and whiskey.
    God bless her. God bless us all.

  4. Nellie'd thank you fellas and so do I. And at least you were spared a 'Valentine's Day' post from me eh?

  5. Perhaps we're the next generation for dancing, laughter and whiskey? After the example has been set, of course. A toast to Nellie...

  6. hope your alright dear boy - it's important to know about characters like nellie so we all have something to aspire to. i'll be getting some practicing in.

  7. Jon & Ally you're right - we are that next generation. Make mine a large one, turn the music up and hold on I'm comin'.


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